Child Labor and Southern Patriotism
When the southern people began to move in the direction of abating this evil [of industrial child labor], the exploiters of little children were quick to assume that they, themselves, represented the South, and were patriotically resenting hostile and alien criticism. As a matter of simple justice it is only fair to say that if the people could have had their way the evil would have been abolished long ago.
-- A. J. McKelway, 1915407
Whereas most of the western and northern states passed mothers' pension laws between 1913 and 1915, only three southern states -- Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia -- followed this pattern. The slowness of certain states in adopting mothers' pensions was due to their previous toleration of child labor. In this chapter, we examine the factors behind this association, especially in regard to the South. We wish to explain what it was about the South that stalled the implementation of child labor laws and to draw a connection between that failure and later disinterest in mothers' pensions.
As we search for a general explanation of southern resistance to the mothers' pension movement, however, we cannot help but notice striking differences within the South itself. The peripheral South passed mothers' pension programs before 1920: Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia ( 1915); Maryland ( 1916); Arkansas, Delaware, Texas ( 1917); Virginia ( 1918); and Florida ( 1919). The deep South passed mothers' pension programs in 1920 or later, or not at all: Louisiana ( 1920); North Carolina ( 1923); Mississippi, Kentucky ( 1928); Alabama ( 1931); and Georgia, South Carolina (none).